Trinity Thirteen — Be Narrow-Minded — Luke 13:22-30
Sermon for Trinity Thirteen – Sunday September 15, 2019
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Luke 13:22–30 (NKJV)
22 And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ 26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. 29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
The Door and the Master of the House,
Through whom alone we enter Heaven,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –
I used to have a T-Shirt that would turn people’s heads when I wore it. It wasn’t crude or revealing – On the front it said: Narrow Minded. Now I would guess that most who read that shirt thought that it was a commentary on my simple-minded-ness. After all, if you are called ‘narrow minded’ it’s usually a criticism. People who talk about sin, who say that it’s morally wrong to live together before marriage, are ‘narrow minded.’ People who are accepting about sin, who shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Well, I guess that’s the way it is today’ are ‘enlightened.’ Today only the ignorant and bigots are considered…‘narrow-minded.’
But the T-Shirt didn’t only have words on the front. On the back of the shirt it continued, “Narrow minded…because narrow is the way that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”
We should all be ‘narrow minded’ in the sense that we are first focused on entering through the narrow gate, the narrow door into the Father’s house. It should be our first and greatest concern in life.
Now, just so you know…that’s not my opinion. Actually, that’s what Jesus says in the Word of God before us this morning. He is the one who urges us to – Be Narrow Minded. May God the Holy Spirit bless and guide us that we may refocus and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Amen.
22 And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”
My wife and I like to go for a walk most days…and her ‘fit-bit’ counts the number of steps she takes along the way. Our goal is 8-10,000 steps a day.
So, I’m curious just how many steps Jesus put on during his earthly ministry. There is evidence from the Gospels that He made a number of circuits around Judea, Perea, Samaria and Galilee. He didn’t just visit the large cities but went from city to village teaching. On this occasion, He was making his way toward Jerusalem.
It was along the way that a certain unnamed person asked Jesus the question that prompted this entire discourse. He asked: “Lord, are there few who are saved?” Jesus, how many are there who are going to heaven anyway? What will the population sign outside the pearly gates say?
When we survey the religious climate in our world today, we may wonder the same thing. We may wonder, “How much longer can this world go on like this before the Lord of Glory returns? How many believers will be left here on earth?
How did Jesus answer the question? Well, actually…He didn’t. Jesus was a master teacher. He knew as the Son of God that we human beings are forever looking out at others…instead of looking within our own hearts. We are quick to criticize other people, imagining that we sit in a safe place, in a higher moral position. We see the mistakes and sins of other people, but we give ourselves a free pass.
Jesus turned the question into an opportunity to teach us all. So, instead of thinking about who ‘isn’t in church’ or taking pride in the fact that we are – we should listen carefully to His Word!
He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
Jesus didn’t specifically answer the question. In effect, He said: “Don’t you worry about the population of heaven. Don’t you worry about the empty pews. YOU worry about YOU! YOU, strive to enter the narrow gate.”
The word translated ‘strive’ is a word that pictures the struggle of an athlete to win a race. It might be rendered ‘fight’ or ‘struggle’ or ‘work hard’ to enter the narrow gate. While we’re at it, let’s call it a narrow door. The word can be translated ‘gate’ or ‘door’ and we generally don’t put gates on houses…and the picture used here is of a house.
Those who enter through the narrow door enter heaven.
Why are we to work hard to enter the narrow door? Isn’t it a done deal? Jesus explains: Strive to enter the narrow door, because many will seek to enter it and be unable. It isn’t easy to enter the narrow door…if it were then it would be called the wide door and everyone would be going to heaven.
Right now – the door is now open. The Master of the House is sitting inside the door, inviting all to come to Him. Jesus stands in the narrow doorway and calls out (Matthew 11:28, 22:4):
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest… I have prepared my dinner, all is ready, come to the wedding!”
- Some come with a big bag of their ‘good works’. “Let me in, I’ve been a good person…look at all the things I have done. I have them here in my bag.” The door is narrow…there is no room for someone to pass carrying a bag, even one filled with ‘good works.’
- Some come with a bag of ‘pet sins.’ They say, “Let me in, I’ve had a little fun in my life. God won’t hold it against me, I’ve done a few things wrong, God will overlook them.” The door is narrow…there is no room for pet sins.
- Some come confessing their sins. God’s law has revealed the truth to them and they realize that they cannot enter on the basis of their ‘goodness’ and neither can they live life in sin. They say, “Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me… O Lamb of God, I come, I come.” God have mercy on me, a sinner!
It is those who come in this way…that enter the narrow door.
Unless we be led by the Holy Spirit to put down our bags and to trust in Christ alone for forgiveness…we cannot enter. It is urgent, because the door is only going to be open for a short while, our time of grace.
25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’
The time will come when the Master of the House will rise up and shut the door. This illustration of Jesus of the Day of Judgment is like the story of the 10 virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom. Five brought extra oil for their lamps, while the other five did not. While they were away getting more oil, the door was opened to admit those prepared and then shut. They stood and the door and pleaded, “Lord, Open to Us!”
It was too late. Unless we enter by confessing sins and trusting in Christ, the Master of the House will answer, “I don’t know you, where you are from.” It isn’t enough to be acquainted with Jesus, one must be united to Him by faith:
26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’
It won’t work to say: “Wait…you know us…we lived in the same town…you taught in our streets.” We are locals. It wasn’t enough merely to have lived in a city that Jesus visited or to have watched Him teach a crowd in the street. It isn’t enough to enter the Father’s house merely to be related to a believer or to be able to say, “I’ve heard about Jesus.”
There is no back entrance into the Father’s house for mere acquaintances. Yet, there are still those who imagine that is enough. “I learned about Jesus as a boy…but I’m too busy for church now.” “I’m not against Jesus, in fact I have a cousin who is a pastor!” “I know that Jesus died on the Cross, that’s enough, right?”
Familiarity with Jesus…isn’t a relationship with Jesus. Knowing about Jesus…isn’t the same as trusting in Him. Those who have not entered the narrow door and have a living relationship with Jesus are strangers to Him.
It is that urgent. There is good reason why Jesus says, “Fight to enter the narrow gate.” It isn’t easy. Moreover, those who are content and cock sure that they are good enough…will find sorrow and anguish on that Day:
28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. 29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.
These words of Jesus were meant to be sobering for the Jews of Jesus’ day. They assumed that they would enter into God’s Heavenly Kingdom merely because they were relatives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Prophets were men sent by God from among their own families. Still, to reject Jesus is to be on the outside. To reject Jesus is to be left out.
When it comes to the Kingdom of God, proximity to Jesus doesn’t get you in…and neither does being related to another Christian.
We can’t say: I’ve always been a member of Calvary. I’ve always been a member of the CLC. I went to church every Sunday when I was a kid. I was baptized. I have always been on the membership role.
NONE of these things are a ‘get through the narrow door free ’ card. The blessings that God gives through divine worship, baptism and a spiritual education can be lost if we take them for granted. We should never sit back on our haunches and boast to ourselves…I’m good person. I have a strong faith.
On the last day, those who were Christians in name only will offer the same excuses: “I heard the word of God! I was baptized. I was confirmed. If they chose a life of sin and did not come to Jesus in heart and mind, daily confessing sins and trusting in His Cross…it will have been for nothing.
Each and every day, we begin by falling to our knees to pray: “God be merciful to me, a sinner…for Jesus’ sake.”
30 And indeed there are last who will be first,
and there are first who will be last.”
First come…first served. It’s an old expression that urges us to be the first in line, because the early bird gets the worm!
When Jesus says, “there are last who will be first and first last” He isn’t talking about first in line or first in time. In fact, the word first refers to highly favored…and last less favored. The Israelites were surely highly favored by God. God made them His People, the nation that He blessed. He gave them His Word through the Prophets. He promised that the Savior would come from among them. They had every advantage.
The Apostle Paul spoke of those advantages like this (Romans 9:4-5):
“…to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
Still, when the Savior came, the were so sure of themselves that they rejected Him. For the most part they rejected the message of the Cross and empty tomb. So, the message was proclaimed to Gentiles, to non-Jews. Many have believed and have entered through the narrow door. Those who had far fewer advantages…have obtained far greater blessings.
This ought to shock us out of pride and complacency. We have been given the message of sins forgiven through Jesus life and death. We are promised a place in the Father’s House. We have been given the Sacrament of the Altar to strengthen our faith and our confidence in that completed work.
Let us beware…lest we through spiritual pride or laziness let go of the Salvation won for us by Jesus Christ. God help us through Word and Sacrament to be forever… Narrow Minded.